Ireland is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. These past two years I’ve had the good fortune to visit both Northern and Southern Ireland, and both experiences encapsulated awesome moments which I will treasure for a lifetime.
Northern and Southern Ireland are two entirely different countries as such, since the North is part of the United Kingdom, while the South is an independent Republic. To be perfectly honest, I tried to objectively choose between the two and decide which part of Ireland I had enjoyed and admired the most, but I simply could not. Both have their natural beauty, architectural gems, not to mention the sweet, small countryside towns (which I must admit, I appreciated more than the big cities), medieval churches, Celtic castles, etc.
Lyrical musings apart, as I am sure you have noticed by now, I am not a person who goes abroad to shop or get drunk on nightlife and parties, and though I love rocking my way through a heavy metal concert or two, that in itself is not usually my main aim when visiting a new country. I much prefer to experience the place itself – that is, savouring the local environment; the lakes, mountains, countryside, as well as its history and archaeological ruins, local traditions and legends.
Both my trips were quite full of explorations and meanderings, however there are two particular spots which I visited, where I really and truly felt alive, admiring the power and energy of nature and the awe-inspiring grandness that is at the heart of our fascinating planet.
The Giant’s Causeway, which is to be found in County Antrim on the north-eastern coast of Northern Ireland, is an area made up of around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, which are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. I remember that we had to take a special route directly from the tourist centre to go there, as this was the only safe way to visit. The rain fell but we did not feel it, as we stared up at the majestic rock formations hugging the wild ocean, and I could very well believe the legends surrounding the place. Myth, in fact, tells us that the causeway had been built by the Irish giant, Fionn, in order to be able to reach a Scottish giant and duel with him. Seeing Fionn’s might, the other giant fled the duel, destroying the causeway behind him. Trust the Irish to come up with such a story!
The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO world heritage site, as well as a nature reserve, in that its flora and fauna are very particular to the region.
At the time, I thought that no other natural geological formation in Ireland could compete with the Causeway – what a mistake that was! A year later, I visited the Republic of Ireland in the South, and went to see the magnificent Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. The cliffs rise around 120 metres (390ft) above the Atlantic Ocean, and it is estimated that there are more than 30,000 birds living in this location. The most well-known of these are the puffins, which live in colonies on isolated parts of the cliffs.
The Cliffs of Moher are a symbol of the individuality and beauty of Southern Ireland, and feature in quite a lot of movies, as well as music videos. I had watched The Princess Bride (1987) countless times, but only after I had been to the Cliffs of Moher myself did I realise that they were prominently featured in it. Likewise, when watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), I had never truly paid attention to the imposing and ominous cliffs which tower over Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore as they make their way in search of a mysterious horcrux, yet, there they were!
When you find a place which really touches your heart, the memories will be with you forever, however I know that I will visit Ireland again, as I am sure there are many more places to explore and discover.
Have you ever been to Ireland?